A Gaston County football team was banned from this fall's N.C. High School Association playoffs after a fight at Carver High School in Winston-Salem.
The postseason ban stems from an Oct. 22 incident on the field involving Mountain Island Charter football players and their counterparts from Carver. Seven players were ejected following what was deemed a "physical altercation" between the teams. Three of them were from Mountain Island Charter.
Administrators there are being questioned for their handling of the matter.
On Monday, a group of disgruntled football parents and team supporters sought answers, chief among them why more wasn't done to keep the Raptors in the playoff mix.
According to state athletic association bylaws, "a team whose players and coaches accumulate three or more individual ejections for fighting" — including single incidents with three ejections — will cause a team to lose its playoff privileges. As a result, a 9-1 Mountain Island Charter team otherwise destined for postseason play now must watch the tournament from home.
"Based on the rule set by the NCHSAA, we will own up to this. No one should point a finger at any of the kids, assistants or Mountain Island Charter School, I as the coach will take blame," said Mountain Island Charter football coach Robert Washington in a statement on Saturday. "No one else will take blame for this. We'll take this lesson and move forward. Good luck to those teams who will compete in the playoffs. I have gained respect for every coach and player, especially during this COVID era. There are no losers."
According to Washington, the team was informed of the matter prior to a 34-29 win over Lake Norman Charter in the Raptors' season finale.
"They have worked so hard, even during the last game of the season when they were told right before the game they would not be able to play in the playoffs," said the parent of a Mountain Island Charter student in an email message to The Gaston Gazette. "Some students walked out to the field in tears, and some couldn't even leave the locker room without the comfort of (Washington) ensuring them that everything was going to work out according to God's plan."
Mountain Island Charter could have appealed the matter, but upon further review opted against doing so.
"An appeal was initially filed, but after further review of video evidence provided by the NCHSAA, school leadership retracted the appeal as referee reports and video footage depicting violations of NCHSAA rules were aligned," said Mountain Island Charter School executive director Glenn Byrum. "No further action is being pursued at this time."
Mountain Island Charter administrators met with parents and others on Monday, informing them of the school's course of action moving forward. Still, supporters of the football team believe more could have been done.
"Is this fair?," said Pamela Bisson, whose son Dylan set single-game and single-season Gaston County passing records this fall as quarterback of the Mountain Island Charter football team in a Facebook post. "Who fights for our kids and what do we teach them? ... Who is on our side?"
You can reach Joe Hughes at 704-914-8138, email email@example.com and follow on Twitter @JoeLHughesII.